BRITISH GOVERNMENT MURDERS HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYERS IN OCCUPIED IRELAND
Murder of two leading International Human Rights Lawyers, sanctioned at the highest level, by the British Government in Occupied Ireland
For the last 23 years the British government blocked an independent inquiry into Lawyer Pat Finucane's murder for the very simple reason, that the British Government itself, was responsible for the murder, claiming any inquiry would prejudice investigations by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens, while another human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson was also murdered by British agents in British Occupied Ireland at this time..
In 1999 Amnesty International commissioned three human rights barristers to check on whether the British Government was lying and if an independent inquiry would actually prejudice a criminal investigation.The barristers conclusion was that such an inquiry would not prejudice a criminal investigation.
Although Stevens One investigation was completed in May 1990, its findings were never made public but it later emerged that 2,000 British military and secret service files were placed in the the hands of loyalist sectarian killers who were being mentored by the British Government.
Stevens did unearth evidence the fact that another branch of Britain's secret services were involved with loyalist paramilitary assassinations. In January 1990 the Stevens team arrested Brian Nelson a known senior UDA intelligence officer and also an agent of the British army's Force Research Unit (FRU) with intimate involvement in Mr Finucane's murder.
Nelson faced 35 charges, that included aiding, abetting murder but in a legal deal these charges were all drastically reduced and he agreed to plead guilty much more minor ones.. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, serving just five and was not convicted of the Finucane murder.
A second investigation known as Stevens Two, was set up when a BBC documentary, The Dirty War( on a previous blog post), revealed Nelson had warned his British army handlers the UDA was targeting Mr Finucane for murder. The second investigation revealed that Nelson had been actively assisted by his British Government handlers, collating intelligence for the loyalist assassination squads of the UDA and UVF. Although Stevens Two lasted nearly three years, again the report was never published.
In 1999 a comprehensive new report into the murder was presented by the London-based human rights group, British Irish Rights Watch (BIRW) to the British Government.The document was passed to the RUC (British police in Ireland now renamed the PSNI) who called Sir John back to Ireland again. Having the murder investigation reopened, as opposed to an inquiry, angered the Finucane family, who insisted this investigation, to be simply, a government "stalling tactic".
In April 1999 a press conference by Stevens to launch his probe, declared that neither of his first two inquiries had previously investigated Mr Finucane's murder, contradicting the British government line through the 1990s whenhe said: "At no time was I given the authority by either the chief constable of the RUC or the DPP to investigate the murder of Pat Finucane."
Stevens Three lasted for years and still no-one was convicted of Mr Finucane's murder.Billy Stobie and Ken Barrett revealed to be informants for RUC Special Branch were charged with the murder but Stobie's trial which collapsed, when the Crown's main witness refused to give evidence. Less than a month later Stobie was shot dead.
A major development in the Finucane murder came eventually, when Sir John Stevens delivered a report stating officially that there had been British government collusion in the murder.Although he forwarded files on 20 serving and former British forces members to the DPP for prosecution, no-one has been prosecuted.
The British and Irish governments then appointed retired Canadian judge Peter Cory to determine if there should be inquiries into six murder cases involving allegations of security force collusion. Both governments pledged to abide by Judge Cory's findings.The Irish government published the two reports it received from Mr Cory . The British government reneged on its commitment and refused to publish any of the reports it received, claiming to be studying "legal and security implications" before any publication.
Judge Cory warned he would go public if the British government continued to renege on its commitment to publish.
"I have made noises that I considered appropriate at this time and I suppose there may come a time when I make more noise," he said.
Yesterday it was made public that a pistol used in the murder of Pat Finucane was handed back to the British Army by the RUC, according to previously unpublished papers. New details about the collusion between the RUC and the loyalist killers, who targeted the 38-year-old lawyer in 1989 have been revealed in a report.
The unpublished chapter from the Stevens Inquiry states a Browning pistol was recovered by police but was given back to the British Army, from where it had previously been 'stolen' by loyalist killers.
Mr Finucane's son Michael has said: "Unfortunately, many other families are in a similar position to ourselves where they are finding out after the fact because the material has been held back for so long." More explosive revelations will be published later today.
Those involved in the murder of Pat Finucane:
RUC Special Branch agent inside the UDA William Stobie supplied the weapons
British army FRU agent inside the UDA Brian Nelson supplied the intelligence
RUC Special Branch agent inside the UDA Ken Barrett was convicted of the murder
RUC Special Branch agent inside the UDA Tommy Lyttle was the UDA group's commander
Summary of Cory Report Pat Finucane Centre 01/04/04
Findings of Judge Cory 1st April 2004
“They (FRU) were aware that Nelson was a central player within the UDA, and that he had considerable influence in directing targeting operations. They were also aware that Nelson often played a direct and active role in reconnaissance missions. The provision of information to Nelson in these circumstances may be seen as evidence of collusive behaviour that had the potential to facilitate the deadly operations planned by the UDA.” (page 102)
“The documents I have examined disclose that Army handlers and their superiors turned a blind eye to the criminal acts of Nelson. In doing this they established a pattern of behaviour that could be characterised as collusive.” (page 103)
“Similarly, they indicate that SB rarely took any steps to document threats or prevent attacks by the UDA, whereas pro-active steps were routinely taken in connection with PIRA and other Republican threats. The failure to issue warnings to person targeted by the UDA often led to tragic consequences. This is indicative of attitudes with RUC SB.” (page 105)
“If criminal prosecutions are to proceed the practical effect might be to delay the public inquiry for at least two years. The Finucane family will be devastated. A large part of the Northern Ireland community will be frustrated. Myths and misconceptions will proliferate and hopes of peace and understanding will be eroded. This may be one of the rare situations where a public inquiry will of greater benefit to a community than prosecutions.”
From 'Focus on victims of a 30-year dirty war' The Guardian 02/04/04
Pat Finucane Killed February 12 1989
On February 12 1989, the solicitor Pat Finucane sat down to dinner at his Belfast home with his wife, Geraldine, and their three children. At 7.25pm a masked gunman from the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association broke down the front door. Fourteen shots were fired into Finucane's head, neck and torso, killing him instantly.
Judge Cory said there was documentary proof that MI5, the army and Special Branch knew about a plot to kill Finucane before his murder. They failed to act to save him because they preferred to protect their loyalist paramilitary informers.
Finucane, 39, had appeared in high-profile legal cases, defending alleged IRA or Provisional IRA members, and had represented the hunger striker Bobby Sands. He also acted for protestants. Judge Cory said Finucane was a "law-abiding citizen" who was killed because he was a solicitor.
A few weeks before Finucane was murdered, the Home Office minister Douglas Hogg stated in parliament: "Some lawyers are unduly sympathetic to the cause of the IRA." Judge Cory said statements made by the ex-chief constable of the RUC had belittled Finucane's integrity and that the police tended "to identify a solicitor with his clients". The RUC kept a file on Finucane and his alleged Republican background, and recorded his "legitimate activities" as a lawyer and supporter of human rights.
Judge Cory said the police investigation into his murder was thwarted by Special Branch, which was "controlling the situation" and withheld vital information. Two agents were being protected: Brian Nelson, a key player in the UDA and an informer for the army's crack intelligence squad, the Force Research Unit, and William Stobie, a former soldier in the British army and a UDA quartermaster who turned Special Branch informer. Both are now dead.
Nelson had compiled detailed index cards - known as "personality cards" - on intended UDA victims, including Finucane. Another loyalist paramilitary had told him that Finucane was "someone really big... the brains behind the provisional IRA". Judge Cory said a public inquiry would determine how much his handlers knew about the targeting of the lawyer.
Stobie claimed he twice informed Special Branch about the threats to Finucane, but they did nothing. MI5 was first told about threats in 1981, but took no action on the "very real and imminent" threat because it would compromise its agent. Just two months before the murder, security services were told Finucane was a "shoot to kill" target but nothing was done.
Judge Cory said a public inquiry should investigate whether British security forces gave "tacit encouragement or even active facilitation" of UDA operations and targeting of victims that led to murder. He described a "cumulative picture" of possible army, MI5 and Special Branch collusion. Nelson - whom the army knew was involved in protection rackets and planning murders - was given information by his handlers that may have helped in UDA murders.
Judge Cory also raised the question of security of army weapons. One member of the Ulster Defence Regiment - "a man all too fond of alcohol, a loner" - had stolen weapons and sold them to loyalist paramilitaries. They were later used in Finucane's murder. One of the murder weapons was a 99m [sic] Browning pistol. Stobie told Special Branch that he had given the UDA paramilitary a 99m [sic] Browning pistol and the target was almost certainly Finucane. He later told one journalist he couldn't sleep a wink that night and that he was sure the murder would be foiled. He "could not believe it" when he heard Finucane was dead.
Special Branch knew that, three days after the murder, Stobie had been ordered to pick up and hide a 99m [sic] Browning pistol. Judge Cory found no indication that they took steps to recover the weapon. The police were said to have a "selective bias" in which they perceived threats by Republican terrorist groups to be more dangerous and deserving of attention than those made by loyalist terrorist groups.
Pat Finucane Mural
The PFC is named in memory of Pat Finucane, a human rights lawyer from Belfast who was murdered in front of his wife and children on 12 February 1989 by the pro-British UDA. Pat had successfully challenged the British Government over several important human rights cases. One of those involved in his murder, Brian Nelson, was working for the Force Research Unit an undercover unit of British Military Intelligence.
Posters, featuring the international lawyers petition supporting the UN Special Rapporteur's appeal for a Judicial Inquiry into Pat Finucane's killing, against a background photo of Pat himself are still available from the PFC. The rates, including postage and packaging, are: £ 4.50 stg (N of Ireland and Britain) £ 5.50 stg (Republic of Ireland) 10.00 dollars (USA). For rates further afield please email us here at the centre.
Statement of John Finucane () at a hearing before the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, in relation to the ongoing campaign by the Finucane family for an independent public judicial inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane (22 October 2009)
Jeremy Corbyn MP has tabled Early Day Motion 898 'Inquiry into death of Pat Finucane' which calls for a fully independent inquiry 'free from Government constraints.' Ask your own MP to sign the EDM - seehttp://www.justiceforpatfinucane.org/
Finucane Family file Judicial Review Proceedings in Belfast High Court
On Monday (12 January 04) Judge Cory, the Canadian judge who investigated allegations of collusion, contacted the families and/or legal teams of Pat Finucane, Rosemary Nelson, Robert Hamill and Billy Wright to inform them that he had recommended public inquiries in all four cases.To date the British government has refused to release Judge Cory's findings and recommendations despite a commitment to do so. See alsoJudge Cory's recommendations to the Irish government which were released in December. The Finucane family welcomed the fact that Judge Cory had kept faith with the families in a situation where Prime Minister Tony Blair had failed to do so.
Full text of the public version of John Stevens interim report on the murder of Pat Finucane, Adam Lambert and security force collusion with loyalist paramilitaries, released 17/04/03.
(It is a 500k PDF file. You will need a copy of Adobe Acrobat or an equivalent program to read it. (Most internet enabled computers have this.) It may take a while to download. You could expect it to take at least two minutes on a typical telephone connection - twice that if your modem is an older model.)
A Joint Statement issued by the Law Society (England and Wales), the Law Society of Northern Ireland and the Human Rights Committee of the Bar Council (Northern Ireland) on the 13th Anniversary of the murder (12, February 2002)
The full transcript of the UTV Insight television programme, Justice On Trial, broadcast on Tuesday December 4 2001 is now available. The hard hitting investigation again focused attention on the role of the security services, RUC Special Branch, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the British Attorney General in the Finucane case.
A statement from the Finucane family in response to the collapse of the trial of William Stobie, the former RUC agent and UDA member charged in connection with the murder of Pat Finucane. (26 November 2001)
British Irish Rights Watch - "Shooting the messenger: attempts to suppress the UTV television documentary "following orders".
The Guardian and Independent articles relating to the recent (2001) censorship.
Evidence is also emerging of the involvement of Brian Nelson and the British Army Force Research Unit in other murders. See here for details of the cases of Gerald Slane, Terence Mc Daid, Patrick Hamill and Francisco Notorantonio.
Testimony given at Brian Nelson's trial by 'Colonel J', the officer who commanded the Force Research Unit, can be accessed here. It is now known that 'Colonel J' is in fact Brigadier John Gordon Kerr, at present military attache to the British embassy in Beijing in China. According to media reports in the Sunday Times (10.9.00) Kerr and a number of other former members of the FRU face arrest and questioning by the Stevens team investigating the Finucane case.
The British Irish Rights Watch document, released on February 24 2000, about State collusion in the murder of Pat Finucane is now available on line.
This is the second major document in a year on the murder of Pat Finucane to be prepared by BIRW. The report which highlights "considerable evidence of an official cover-up" in the case, was presented to the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, Foreign Minister, Brian Cowen, and Minister of State, Liz O'Donnell. Geraldine Finucane accompanied by her sons Michael and John, brother-in-law Martin Finucane and Jane Winter of BIRW presented the document in a meeting with the Irish government.
This report raises serious questions over the role of British military intelligence and the RUC, as well as that of the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Junior Minister Liz O'Donnell said that the report made the case for an inquiry "compelling".
On November 28, 1999 the Sunday Times then reported that the British government had placed a gagging order on the paper prohibiting publication of further information from an alleged former member of the Force Research Unit, the undercover army unit which helped plan Pat Finucane's murder. This Sunday Times article can be accessed here.
A statement on the appointment of John Stevens to investigate the murder of Pat Finucane
On November 21, 1999 the Sunday Times newspaper claimed that a secret unit of the British Army set fire to the offices of the Stevens Inquiry in 1990. That inquiry, led by senior British police officer John Stevens, was set up to investigate allegations of collusion between members of the security forces and loyalist paramilitaries. According to the article the burglary and burning of the offices was caried out in order to delay the investigation which was to lead to the arrest of British Army agent Brian Nelson. Nelson was later shown to have played a central role in the murder of Pat Finucane. The Sunday Times article can be accessed here.
Considerable controversy surrounds the decision of the Stevens Inquiry into Pat Finucane's murder to prosecute a journalist who revealed startling new information on the case in the Sunday Tribune newspaper. Following a court hearing on Monday August 24 1999 the journalist remained adamant that he would not hand his original notes over to the Stevens team. The original Sunday Tribune article can be accessed along with an opinion piece on the case from media expert Roy Greenslade.
Update - Wednesday, 27 October 1999 - The High Court in Belfast overturned a lower court's order requiring journalist Ed Maloney to hand over his interview notes with William Stobie. The original ruling was quashed on the grounds that the RUC had failed to demonstrate that Maloney's notes would have an impact on the inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane.
Ed Maloney is the Northern editor of the Sunday Tribune; William Stobie has been charged with the murder of Pat Finucane.
The 1999 (January 13) published UN report on the murder of Pat Finucane and intimidation of defence lawyers in the North of Ireland is available on the web at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva, Switzerland
In his report, the Special Rapporteur when talking above State involvment in the murder of Pat Finucane, comments that "there is at least prima facie evidence of such collusion".
The 1998 published UN report on the murder of Pat Finucane and intimidation of defence lawyers in the North of Ireland is available on the web at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva, Switzerland
The Rt Hon Sir Desmond de Silva has been appointed to conduct this Review. On the 12th October 2011 the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Rt. Hon. Owen Paterson MP, set out the terms of reference for the Review:
Drawing from the extensive investigations that have already taken place, to produce a full public account of any involvement by the Army, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Security Service or other UK Government body in the murder of Patrick Finucane.
The Review will have full access to the Stevens archive and all Government papers, including any Ministry of Defence, Security Service, Home Office, Cabinet Office, or Northern Ireland Office files that you believe are relevant. The account should be provided to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland by December 2012, for the purpose of publication.